Sunday, 29 January 2012


 This is  one of the London's most beloved landmarks as you've  never seen her before.
 Stripped  down to her underwear, the never before seen pictures of  the Tower Bridge -- one of the world's most recognisable  structures -- have been unveiled after the stash of  hundred-year-old prints were found in a  skip.
  Coinciding with the  125th anniversary of the bridge's  foundation, the 50 sepia photos reveal in incredible  detail the ingenuity behind one of the British capital's  most popular tourist destinations, which was the first  bridge of its kind in the world.  
Never seen before:  The pictures of London's Tower Bridge were  found in a skip and then wrapped up in brown paper and  put in a carrier bag under a  bed.
     The unique  pictures, dating back to 1892, document the construction  the iconic bridge, which at the time was a landmark feat  of engineering nicknamed 'The Wonder  Bridge'.   The discarded pictures, which were  retrieved by a caretaker who was looking after a  building being turned into flats in 2006, have spent the  last five years in a carrier bag underneath his  bed.
     The 59 year-old,  who wishes to remain anonymous, said that after the  occupants of the Westminster office building moved out,  the album and a number of documents were thrown into a  skip outside.  He said: "I took the ledgers to the  Tower Bridge Museum because I thought they might have  some historical value.
  Remarkable  find:   The prints reveal in  incredible detail the ingenuity behind one of the  British capital's most popular tourist attractions and  how it was put together
  A view of the  bridge:  The sturdy steel frame of the  Tower Bridge can be seen, before it was covered with its  distinctive stone-cladding on the orders of architect  John Wolfe-Barry
  They  included records of the materials and used in the  bridge's construction and what they cost.   I  told the man at the museum that I had also found some  photos but he told me they already had plenty of  those.   I didn't know what to do with them so  I wrapped them in some brown paper and put them in a bag  under the bed".
     It wasn't  until earlier this month, when the owner of the photos  mentioned them to his neighbor, City of Westminster tour  guide Peter Berthoud that the significance of the find  fully emerged.   Mr Berthoud, an expert in the  history of London who gives guided tours around famous  landmarks including the Tower Bridge, said that he was  gobsmacked by the haul.
  Stripped  down:  The photographs show how the  bridge was put together over eight years, revealing why  it was nicknamed at the time the 'Wonder  Bridge'
  Landmark:   The Tower Bridge remains one of the British capital's  most iconic structures and a tourist attraction today,  125 years after building  started
  Sepia to silver  screen:  The incomplete Tower Bridge  features in the 2009 film Sherlock  Holmes, where Holmes battles with his  adversary Lord Henry  Blackwood
     Contrary to  popular misconception, the images reveal the bridge is a  sturdy steel frame beneath the instantly recognisable  stone cladding.   Mr Berthoud said: "When my  neighbor gave me a disk with the images on I just  couldn't believe it.   I spent hours going  through my books to see if these pictures were already  around but I couldn't see them anywhere -- they are  unique.   Quite simply London's Tower Bridge  is the world's most iconic bridge and it's the only  bridge over the Thames which has never needed to be  replaced at some point.
  Discovery:   Peter Berthoud was gobsmacked when his neighbor showed  him the haul of photos.   He spent hours going  through books to find something similar, only to  discover they are unique
  Transformation:   The bridge took eight years to build and at the time was  a landmark feat of engineering, combining elements of a  suspension and high level bridge and a  bascule
  It  combines elements of a suspension bridge, a high level  bridge and a bascule which allows it to open for ships  to pass.   Nothing had ever been made like it  before and nothing since.   People are always  surprised when I tell them thet the Tower Bridge is a  steel bridge, as the stone cladding is so recognisable".
     According to the  tour guide, the bridge's original architect, Horace  Jones, wanted to clad the bridge in brick but following  his death he was succeeded as architect by John  Wolfe-Barry, who decreed the bridge should be clad in  stone.
  Development:    Photographs show the progress in the construction  process, from basic structures to something easily  recognisable as the Tower Bridge as we know it  today
  Unique:   Many of the 50 sepia prints are in good condition,  despite dating back to 1892.   Several are  even dated, making it possible to trace the progress in  construction
     Although many of  the century-old pictures are in a state of disrepair,  around 20 are in good condition.   Many of the  12 by 10 snaps are dated and clearly show how the bridge  was put together over a space of eight  years.   Memorable scenes include  turn-of-the-century laborers taking orders from a site  foreman in a bowler hat and a shot if the bridge's  original steam-powered engine room, which could open the  bridge in less than a minute.   In one  poignant picture flags decorate the body of the bridge  and a hand-written pencil note reads:   'Note,  flags denote Mr Hunter's wedding  day'.
     Mr Berthoud  said: "My favorite pictures are of the simple,  humble guys building the bridge, unaware that what they  are making will be so historic.   People are  used to seeing images of the Empire State Building being  built but this is part of British history being created  50 years earlier".  

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